Driving the old car

We visited with dear friends last evening. It is always a bit tricky, during this season of a pandemic. We don’t want to contribute to the spread of the disease, but we have so far not been directly affected by the infection and we, like all other people, are hungry to be with others. So we expand our bubble from time to time, being careful about hand washing, distance, and spending as much time outdoors as possible. As we were driving home, my wife commented on the fact that we were driving our “old” car. We are very fortunate to have multiple vehicles in our family. The car that I usually drive is one that we have owned for many years. It is a 1999 Subaru and has over 290.000 miles on it. It has been a very reliable car and has filled many roles in our family.

The car has made a lot of road trips. It was our “go to” vehicle for taking our children to and from college. Our son attended college 1,250 miles from our home. Our daughter’s college was nearly 500 miles from our home. After college, our Son lived in Los Angeles for a while and the car made two 2,700 mile round trips there, one with a side trip to the Grand Canyon. Our son was married during his graduate school days in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Car made the 3,400 mile round trip with a cedar chest on the roof rack going down. It has served as a daily driver for our family for all of those years and been my go to car for late night and middle of the night calls when I needed to head to the hospital or another location. It has been dependable winter and summer with comfortable air conditioning and all wheel drive reliability for slippery roads. I’ve had it in the mud on multiple times and it has ventured off the road when needed. It has traveled a lot of miles with a canoe or kayak or bicycles strapped to the roof.

I joke that I can now put ethanol in the car because iit is 21 years old and n South Dakota it is legal to consume alcohol once you are 21 years old.

The thought that occurred to me as we were driving home last night is that I’ve become a bit like my father. My default car to drive is the oldest one we have. Our family got a new car when I was 16 years old. I had a driver’s license and I was eager to drive that car and it seemed to me that my father had purchased it to keep it in the garage. An older car with a less modern and comfortable interior was always offered when I wanted to go somewhere. Now I understand how my father got pleasure from keeping the new car new. My first choice is almost always to drive the older vehicle.

It isn’t that we have new cars very often around our house. Our “new” car is 9 years old. We need and have been able to afford reliable vehicles but we have no need for new vehicles very often and when we get vehicles that are new to us they usually have had a previous owner. Our family has always had many priorities for our financial resources and cars haven’t been the most important purchase for us.

We are fortunate to live in a time when vehicles are reliable and last a long time. I can remember thinking that I needed to replace tires when they had 10,000 miles on them. These days if I don’t get 50,000 miles out of a set of tires, I think something is wrong. Our car usually is good for 75,000 miles on a set of tires. I remember when we replaced the muffler on our car every other year. This car still has its original muffler 21 years later. Of course cars have also become more complex. I used to be able to perform all of the routine maintenance on our vehicles and could do field repairs on most of the things that went wrong with them. I’ve replaced starters and batteries and alternators in parking lots and used to do tune ups, replacing spark plugs and distributor caps and wires as needed. I could adjust a carburetor, and replace an air filter. These days our cars go to the shop for oil changes and I don’t know how to operate a diagnostic computer. I can make a few repairs, but it takes a technician to do most of the things they require.

We had a car when I was a teen that needed the engine overhauled at 50,000 miles and we thought that getting a vehicle to 100,000 miles was a major accomplishment. For the most part, when a car was five or six years old it was time to start thinking about replacement. Sometimes I wish my father were still living just so he could see me driving around in a 21 year old car with nearly 300,000 miles on it. I think he would have enjoyed it.

For many of the world’s citizens, the dream of owning a car is beyond reach and for many others the thought that a household could afford multiple vehicles is an image of almost unimaginable wealth. I’ve had access to reliable vehicles all of my adult life and often have had a choice when I need a vehicle for a trip. Family vacations for us have often involved road trips of thousands of miles. Ive been to the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans by car in the same year.

Now we are preparing to move 1,200 miles from our home. We’ve made one round trip this summer and plan another before making the trek with a rental truck with our furniture. And I’m not worried about the reliability of our vehicles.

The 21-year-old car, however, won’t be making the move with us. We one one too many vehicles right now and the time has come to find a new owner for that car. It isn’t worth much money, and it will probably become part of a vehicle donation program at a local non profit.

Until that day, it is my vehicle of choice. I’ll miss that car when it is gone.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!